Charlotte and Anna of Reads Rainbow made this wonderful post of book recs based on the symbolization of Gilbert Baker’s pride flag, and encouraged people to use it as a tag if we want. So here I am, because I love this idea! Thank you for creating it!
Theme: a book by and about QPOC
My pick: Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
Why? You probably already know why this series is so beloved! It’s a cute and twisty dystopian/superhero story full of queer characters of color. Not Your Sidekick has good bad guys and bad good guys and double identity romance — just the perfect combo of teenage romcom and superhero romp.
But also, it makes total sense for a superhero book to fill this slot, because superheroes protect the marginalized, and it’s so much better when they’re queer and/or people of color as well. Not Your Sidekick joins the superhero genre in conversation with so many aspects of it that already existed. The impact of titling a book in which a character of color gets to be the main character after people of color have historically been confined to supporting roles “Not Your Sidekick!” C.B. Lee knows what she’s doing.
Theme: a romance novel
My pick: Jilted by Lilah Suzanne
Why? Jilted is one of my favorite romance novels ever, and definitely my favorite contemporary one! It’s an angsty, heart-warming fake-betrothed m/enby romance between two people who were left at the altar by their significant others. Big secondary characters becoming main characters energy!
Basically, if you feel sorry for every throwaway character who’s gotten left at the altar in a romcom because their partner’s quirky ex suddenly came back into their life… then this is the book for you. Revenge of the side characters! Except revenge in this case is finding someone better for them and thriving.
Theme: a book that celebrates LGBT lives
My pick: Avi Cantor Has Six Months to Live by Sacha Lamb
Why? Okay, hear me out. Despite its ominous title, no one dies in this book. It’s a love story. Seriously.
Avi Cantor is a depressed trans boy who begins to recover and open up after meeting the new boy in town, who is trans too. The friendship and then romance that blooms between them, despite Avi’s grumpiness and general suspicion of positivity, is beautiful and real and lifesaving. He just finds so much love and warmth and life in the course of the story, and there’s magic and humor and romance and so much wonderful Jewish representation all packed into this free novella! It’s basically the Jewish concept of “choose life” as a contemporary YA urban fantasy. Read it here.
Theme: a book that feels like healing
My pick: We Are Okay by Nina Lacour
Why? This isn’t a subtle pick. We Are Okay is absolutely about healing. It’s about recovering from familial betrayal, from grief, from depression, about facing down your past and accepting help from others.
The book follows Marin, alone at college over winter break, as the best friend she abandoned after her grandfather’s death comes to visit her. Facing her friend (and former girlfriend) means owning up to why she left, and that terrifies her. I especially love that for Marin, healing comes from friendship. It’s platonic and familial love that ultimately supports her and lets her move on. Healing is a personal and individual thing, but this is a book about how it’s easier to take those first steps if there’s someone on the other side beckoning you towards them.
Theme: a book with summery vibes
My pick: Ash by Malinda Lo
Why? This prompt first made me turn to cute summer romcoms for inspiration, but I ended up choosing Ash because it makes me think of soft summer nights, when the air is warm and gentle and smells like flowers, and the darkness is crisscrossed with the shadows of trees all around, and maybe you can see stars overhead, blinking through the rustling leaves. It’s a quiet but ultimately very positive book, despite dealing with a lot of grief. I feel like it really embodies my understanding of Summer as a slow season where people tend to bloom the same way flowers do—becoming more open and more vulnerable, and becoming more beautiful because of it. I talk more about Ash in my slow fantasy rec post!
Theme: a book that connects to nature
My pick: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
Why? Oh please, like I was going to get through this list without talking about this book. It’s one of my favorites, and I decided to place it here because it has snow magic.
Nature and the environment/setting is actually a really important part of the book. Lynet’s kingdom is stuck in perpetual winter, which (as usual) symbolizes emotional cold and a culture frozen in place. Lynet’s discovery of her snow magic shows her gaining control over her environment both physically and symbolically, but it isn’t until the end of the book that she learns to use her powers in a new way—not just to manipulate the society that already exists, but to melt it down so that something new can be made in its place. Symbolism all over the place!
Theme: a fantasy novel
My pick: Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter
Why? This book haunts me. It’s so dark and weird and original, and I get why it doesn’t have super wide appeal but also it hurts my heart that I never have anybody to talk about it with or fan content to engage with! I love how moody it is, which would really lend itself to some awesome fan art, but whatever! I’ll just suffer alone I guess!
This book is about extremely flawed people who make bad choices for good reasons. These choices lead three teens into a dark mirror-reflection of their town, populated by wicked fae who prey on their insecurities and deepest desires. This book’s magic system is a perfect case of using worldbuilding to advance character development!
Theme: a book that leaves you feeling calm
My pick: Peter Darling by Austin Chant
Why? Peter Darling just does that, it leaves me feeling calm. This Peter Pan mlm retelling with a trans protagonist has such a wonderful world and ends in such a hopeful, wholesome place!
Its calming influence makes a lot of sense, because it’s not a plotty, actiony book. The story is driven by emotional and interpersonal development. It’s about people deciding between a perfect fantasy life or an imperfect real world, and finding that with courage and love, the real world can be gentle and kind too.
Theme: a book that makes you feel connected to the community
My pick: The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke
Why? In this small town urban-fantasy, a loner lesbian falls in with the most popular girls in school and discovers them to be kindred spirits: angry queer girls who want to raise a ruckus. I absolutely love how soundly this book rejects girl hate. These girls have so many sharp edges, but they’re not looking to hurt each other. They love each other fiercely and it’s such goals, and exactly the kind of friendship I wish I’d found in high school. Honestly, I think it’s what every girl has ever wanted. I kinda get filled with longing whenever I think about this book?? It’s so g-ddamn good! Man! Leave me alone!
Anyway, like every single good character in this book is queer and not looking for approval, and it’s exactly that real life phenomenon where all the queer kids become friends before they even realize they’re queer and before you know it it’s all “Wait if you’re a lesbian and I’m pan and she’s questioning-queer then WHO’S FLYING THE PLANE”
Anyway this book comes out September 15th so you should probably pre-order it.
Here’s some super cool news: June 14th to June 20th is a week to demonstrate Black publishing power. This week, everyone is encouraged to buy two books by Black authors, in the hopes of filling the bestseller list with Black voices.
New books have the highest chance of hitting the bestseller list, so the best way to get Black books on the list is purchasing new releases! You can find lots more information, book recommendations, and Black-owned bookstores to support by searching #BlackOutBestsellerList on twitter.
This is the last day to participate in this week’s initiative if you haven’t yet! But of course it’s never too late to support Black authors and especially Black queer books. This list of Black-Owned bookstores and queer books to buy from them may help! Personally, I recommend Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert because I love the Jewish representation and that the love interest wears hearing aids (but you know, I’m a biased hard of hearing Jew!) and Dread Nation by Justine Ireland because it’s probably the only zombie media I’ve ever loved, which is an Achievement.
I’m gonna tag some people, but of course no pressure to participate if you don’t feel like it! And you don’t have to be long-winded about why you chose each book like I was 😂